Attracting and retaining top talent has never been so difficult. The best employees have limitless options as to where they could work, and it’s critical for you to understand how to keep them. While there are many potential reasons an employee might leave, perhaps the most common (and therefore the most important) is because of their boss. You’ve probably heard the saying that “people don’t quit their job, they quit their boss.” Statistics are backing this claim as a Gallup study finds that half of the employees they surveyed quit due to their manager, while Harvard Business Review says that only 49% of employees have “a great deal of trust” in the person they report to.
So, if you want great retention numbers you might start by examining the managers in your company. Are they operating in a way that’s respectful, productive, caring, and equitable? Are they willing to coach, mentor, and lift their direct reports? Do they repeatedly make some of the common mistakes found below?
We encourage you to take an inventory of your managers to better understand their strengths and weaknesses. Help them reach their potential so that their direct reports can do likewise. Steer them away from the common managerial mistakes that so often lead to employee turnover. Doing so will improve employee retention and morale.
Six common managerial mistakes:
- Firing without warning
- Failing to give context to meetings
- Taking credit for work that’s not theirs
- Failing to define goals and objectives
- Refusing to delegate
- Missing or choosing not to schedule one-on-one meetings
Firing without warning
There will be employees within your company who do not pan out. For whatever reason, they won’t fulfill the hopes and expectations you had when you hired them. It might be due to lack of effort, inadequate skillset, or any number of other reasons.
At some point, it’ll be time to let them go. This is a normal and healthy business practice. However, many companies (and more specifically, many managers) often fail to fire the right way. Poor termination practices not only leave the company vulnerable to potential lawsuits, but will also rub current employees the wrong way.
Firing an employee is never easy. It’s one of the sad, unpleasant parts of running a business. But there is most certainly a right way and a wrong way to do it.
An involuntary termination should rarely come as a surprise to the employee. Before being fired, the employee should receive a fair warning. They deserve to know that their actions, behavior, or performance is inadequate, and they should have a chance to turn things around.
A good manager should meet with his/her direct reports often. Feedback, both good and bad, should be shared regularly. An employee should be well aware of where they stand in terms of fulfilling or falling short of expectations.
When an employee falls short, you may choose to create and place employees on “performance improvement plans” or PIPs to signal that their job is on the line. These types of plans align the employee and manager. Clear expectations are set and both parties know the outcome if they are not met.
If you notice that the people your managers are firing always seem to be caught off guard, you know there’s a problem. Work with your manager on developing a process so that employees can be properly notified of poor performance or behavior. Break any bad habits of firing without warning.
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Failing to give context to meetings
This managerial mistake goes hand-in-hand with the previous one. If managers are consistently terminating employees without notice, then every meeting with that manager becomes a pressure-packed situation for the employees involved.
Any time a manager sends a message to an employee and says something like, “Come to my office at 2pm” the employee will be scared to death. They’ll spend the time between receiving the message and the meeting worrying about whether or not it’s their last day on the job. Productivity will come to a halt.
Of course, the last thing you want is your employees living in fear. Unhealthy company culture can absolutely derail a business. If your employees are worried that every meeting might be their last, then there is some major damage control that needs to take place.
Luckily, there’s a very simple practice that you can implement across your company that will significantly calm the anxiety of a worried employee.
Here’s how it works. Instead of a manager sending out a message for a meeting that says, “Come to my office at 10,” they instead send a message saying, “Come to my office at 10 to discuss next month’s marketing calendar.”
Do you see how simple that change is?
And do you see what a dramatic effect that could have on an anxious employee?
Not only does the employee not spend her time worrying about whether or not she’ll be fired, but now she actually knows what to prepare to be ready for the meeting.
By adding context to meetings, everything goes more smoothly. Meetings are lower stress, more productive, and no one is stuck wondering if it’ll be their last day.
Failing to define goals and objectives
Before the time of GPS, radar, and other technology, sailors often relied on the North Star to guide them in the right direction when sailing at night. This always-shining light in the sky kept them on course. It was a beacon that illuminated the path towards their destination.
In business, it’s important to have your own North Star metrics. These are the guides that help to define the goals and objectives of a company, and in a more narrow sense, a team.
A team without goals and objectives is a team without purpose. There might be work to be done, but if no one understands why it’s being done then it will not produce the desired results. It is a manager’s responsibility to understand and define the direction of his/her team, and until they do, employees will be unable to trust them.
Meet with your managers and ask them about the objectives they’ve created for their teams. How do these objectives contribute to the company’s mission and goals? Ask them if each member of their team would be able to recite their team’s objective if asked.
These conversations are critical to ensuring that managers are not only aligned with the company, but that they’re working to align their teams with a specific mission and vision.
Taking credit for work that’s not theirs
This managerial mistake is so obvious and so universally acknowledged that it almost feels silly to include it. However, we hear from employees all the time how this happens with shocking frequency and so we thought we’d touch briefly on it here.
Many of us have been on the receiving end of this one, and we know how much it can hurt. You work long hours, you create, innovate and iterate, you push yourself to the brink, and you deliver something amazing. Then, for no reason at all, someone else presents and takes credit for your work and doesn’t even mention that you were involved.
There are few things employees care more about than feeling valued at work, and if there’s a surefire way to devalue their contributions, it’s allowing a manager to take all the credit for work done by his/her team.
Now, we don’t want to totally discount the role of a valuable manager. Managers deserve some credit for how well their team performs. It’s a manager’s job to inspire and elicit the best of their teams, and when the team does perform, the leader deserves to be acknowledged.
What we’re touching on is the specific instances when an employee completes a project and the manager takes credit for their work. This simply is not right. A manager should be quick to praise and acknowledge the contributions of his/her teammates and should be happy to draw attention to high performing employees.
If you become aware of a manager who consistently takes credit for work that is not theirs, do not hesitate to approach them. Discuss the benefits of highlighting employee contributions, and remind them of the effect their action may have on employee retention.
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Refusing to delegate
We mentioned early how some managers mistakenly take credit for others’ work. Well, another major managerial mistake is demonstrated by some managers who want to do all the work.
Many managers have a hard time delegating their work and end up getting a lot less done. They feel a strong sense of responsibility for the team’s contributions to the company, but they don’t feel comfortable sharing the responsibility. This leads the manager to try and do too much, while his/her team is left with little to do. If this is the case, the team will eventually grow bored and moves on.
It’s critical for a manager to learn how to delegate. The delegation of responsibilities creates synergy throughout the team, allowing them to accomplish more together than they ever could as individuals.
Delegation is also a great way to show employees that you trust them. By sharing important responsibilities with teammates, a manager effectively communicates their belief in each person’s ability to contribute. Teams develop a “win-as-a-team, lose-as-a-team” attitude and egos are diminished.
Of course, when abused, a manager who delegates too much might simply be viewed as lazy. If he/she doesn’t do anything to contribute and essentially pawns off all responsibility to the team, then the manager will end up in a position where they’re taking credit for the work of others.
As you can see, there’s a fine line between the two. It’s important for managers to delegate in order for the team to maximize their accomplishments, but if they delegate too much, then the team will resent them.
Help your company’s managers find the right balance. Ensure that they’re delegating consistently while also engaging in the work. A great manager does both, while a poor manager will either delegate too little or too much.
Missing or refusing to schedule one-on-one meetings
If employees quit bosses, not companies, it’s likely because they don’t develop a relationship with said boss. When a boss feels distant or unfamiliar, an employee will struggle to trust that person. If there’s no trust, efficiency will suffer, communication will be intermittent, and loyalty will be non-existent.
Some managers will mistakenly believe that relationships with employees will “just happen.” They think that org-chart proximity will automatically result in a trusted relationship. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.
Relationships are built through dedicated one-on-one time. It’s important for managers to schedule one-on-ones to get to know the people who report to them. These meetings should be held frequently and consistently.
Missing or refusing to schedule these meetings is a clear sign that a manager does not value or prioritize the relationship with their direct reports. It shows that they’re not willing to put in the time and effort necessary to help an employee feel valued, welcomed, and cared for within the organization.
We suggest that you do not allow managers to make excuses for missing these meetings. They’ll tell you that they’re too busy, or that the meetings themselves are too repetitive or unimportant. These are poor excuses to refuse to engage in a practice proven to enhance company performance.
Regular one-on-ones have the potential to do so much good within your organization. These meetings can uplift and inspire employees, help managers build relationships with direct reports, and align the two parties to achieve more together.
At the end of the day, there are only so many things that can be done at a company level to keep employees happy and motivated. You can pay a good salary, offer great benefits, be flexible with working hours, and so much more, but if your employees don’t like their managers, they’ll leave.
Your job is to ensure that managers aren’t making these six managerial mistakes. Help them to see the reasons behind each one, and correct their behavior as necessary. Employee turnover is too expensive and problematic to not make these changes within your organization.